The Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, Dr Desmond Tutu, a patron of Changing Attitude, has asked all the Primates to put aside their differences in order to deal with the world’s troubles in an open letter sent last week to his successor as Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane.
In the letter he appeals to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams to invite all bishops to the 2008 Lambeth Conference, “even those irregularly consecrated or actively gay” and calls on all Anglican bishops to be “more welcoming and inclusive of one another.”
Archbishop Tutu describes how, on a recent retreat: “I felt under considerable divine pressure to address this appeal to you and your fellow Primates.” He refers to the parables of the lost sheep and the prodigal son in Luke 15 and as he writes: “We are most like this God and God’s Son when we are welcoming and inclusive as possible, when we have broken down all middle walls of partition. It is almost a defining characteristic of God to draw together, to unite. . . Sin, on the contrary, always divides. It is centrifugal by nature. It alienates, separates, like apartheid.”
After referring to unity and fellowship as “a gift from God”, he writes of the “bewildering diversity” of God’s creation: “None is self-sufficient, but all are made for interdependence, each making up what is lacking in the other. In a world where difference has led to alienation and even bloody conflict, the Church is God’s agent to demonstrate that unity in diversity is in fact the law of life. ”
Dr Tutu admits: “I am not telling you anything new. Our Communion has always been characterised by its comprehensiveness, its inclusiveness, its catholicity . . .we are really family, held together not so much by law as by bonds of affection. There is no family that is unanimous on every single subject. We have been known to embrace within this one family those whose views were almost diametrically opposed. We said: ‘I disagree with you but we belong together.’”
He addresses the Archbishop of Canterbury directly: “Please invite [to the Lambeth Conference] ALL those in Episcopal orders who are not retired, even those irregularly consecrated or actively gay; please, now I appeal to you all, do not excommunicate one another seemingly so easily. Be welcoming and inclusive of one another. Commune with one another and with our Lord, sacramentally and in other ways.”
Dr Tutu ends with a dramatic appeal to the Primates: “Our Lord is weeping to see our Communion tearing itself apart on the issue of human sexuality, when the world for which he died is ravaged by poverty, disease, war and corruption. We are one of God’s agents to deal with these scourges. God has no one but us. Please, I beg you all in our Lord’s name, agree to disagree, argue, debate; disagree, but do all this as members of one family. Accept one another as God accepts us, however we are, in Christ. Wipe the tears from our Lord’s eyes; put the smile back on God’s face. I beg you all on bended knee.”